Summary: The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, & Future not only enlighten Scrooge, but they prove helpfulf to the ISraelites and us as well
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which tells us of Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, is a wonderful story. Scrooge is the tight-fisted, hard-nosed, “never give anyone a break,” work-aholic, whose chief goal in life is to make as much money as he can with little or no regard for anyone else. Bob Cratchit is a humble, Christian man, who works for Scrooge and in spite of the way Scrooge treats him, he’s loyal and feels sorry him. If you’re familiar with the story, you remember that three ghosts visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve. The ghost of Christmas past takes Scrooge back to his past, where he sees his life as a young boy, and then as a young man in apprenticeship who turns his back on love in favor of his work. He comes away somewhat teary-eyed and sentimental.
The ghost of Christmas present takes Scrooge to Bob Cratchit’s house. He learns of Cratchit’s son, Tiny Tim and his condition. He also visits his nephew’s house, where he sees his family making fun of him because of his sour attitude.
And finally, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Christmas yet to come, which takes him into the future. He visits the Cratchit household, where he learns of Tiny Tim’s death. He’s also shown a dead body underneath a sheet. He’s not told who it is, but he’s allowed to eavesdrop on various conversations concerning this dead person. The remarks are not very flattering, and at one point, some of the dead man’s possessions are ransacked. Scrooge has a gnawing feeling who the person is. He’s anxious to know, but the ghost tells him nothing. He instead points him to a graveyard, where Scrooge discovers his own tombstone. He then awakens from his night of travel. He’s a new man who, having learned from the past, seen the present with greater intensity, and gained a glimpse of the future, will now embark upon a path with a newfound vision and purpose.
As we consider the Israelite’s situation in our scripture this morning and also ponder the future that accompanies a new year, I’d like to suggest that we take three similar journeys as Scrooge did. First of all, know, appreciate, and learn from your past. The Israelite history began with Abraham obediently following God’s command to move to a new land. Past childbearing years, God then blesses Abraham and Sarah with a son Isaac. God would then ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but when Abraham is prepared to obey, God intervenes and spares Isaac. Isaac has two sons Esau and Jacob. Jacob, the conniver, steals Esau’s birthright, but ends up being the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph is despised by his brothers and sold into slavery. Joseph perseveres and because of his God-given ability to interpret dreams, saves Egypt from a famine and becomes Pharaoh’s trusted advisor. Joseph is reunited with his family when his brothers come to Egypt for food. There, in Egypt, the sons of Jacob, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, live out their days together.
Some time around 1300BC, a new pharaoh comes to power. He is unaware of Joseph’s legacy and scared of the Israelites, because they’ve multiplied and grown exceedingly strong. He uses taskmasters to oppress them and force the Israelites into slavery, but out of the pains of bondage was born a baby boy named Moses, who is led by God to deliver the Israelites from slavery to the land he promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Every once in a while, you’ve got to back up from segmented Bible study and look at the whole time line. This is the time line, the history, the events that the ghost of Christmas past would show the Israelite people. Their history is littered with God’s unyielding faithfulness and dedication. They have such a rich and glorious past, because of God.
Do you know the history of Chestnut Grove is somewhat similar? Not that we were enslaved, but that we broke free from oppression as part of the “liberal” Separatist Baptist movement. You may ask, “What made them so liberal?” The separatist movement was considered liberal because it disavowed infant baptism, proclaiming believer baptism instead, and they emphasized the autonomy of the local church. Well, on January 9, 1773, 48 of these dissenters met somewhere around Lewis’ meeting house and established the Albemarle Baptist Church, the forerunner of Chestnut Grove Baptist Church and the Albemarle Baptist Association.
In 1801, the church moved to a vacant Episcopal church west of Earlysville near 764 and became known as Buck Mountain Baptist Church. When the Episcopalians asked for the building back, we moved to the center of Earlysville and helped construct and began using the Earlysville Union Church. After the Civil War, these Baptists began looking for a new site for their future, and settled on one that sat “in the fork of the road near Longwood.” They held many fundraisers before they could afford the $25 per acre they would pay, but in May, 1880, the new land and building was dedicated. In 1956, the decision was made to expand, by putting new rooms underneath in a basement. Some money was on hand due to the sale of timber from the church property, and the church decided to borrow the rest.